The usual suspects

I am just shocked–shocked, I tell you!–to find that the potential nuclear deal with Iran isn’t being welcomed by the folks at Commentary:

What the West is getting in return for beginning the process of dismantling economic sanctions on the Islamist regime is unclear. The New York Times describes it as “a first step that would halt the progress in Iran’s nuclear program for perhaps six months to give negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive agreement.”

Well, I mean that sounds like somethi–

While most observers are interpreting that to mean a freeze in the enrichment of uranium, given the fact that it will involve no dismantling of centrifuges or surrender of their existing nuclear stockpile, it’s clear that the big winner here is not Kerry, but an Iranian regime that has waited out its American foes. While Iran can renege on its pledge in an instant and may well cheat on it no matter what they say in public,

Yes, person at Commentary magazine, tell us more about illicit nuclear weapons programs.

once the complicated web of international sanctions is unraveled it’s doubtful that it can be revived, let alone strengthened in the future as the administration says it can.

Goodness knows, if there’s one thing the international community hates it’s imposing sanctions on Islamic countries that transgress. Just ask the Palestinians, or the Libyans and Iranians, or the Iraqis, or the Afghans, or the Iranians again. The amazing thing is that we ever got the sanctions imposed on Iran to begin with, I guess?

As a frustrated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rightly said yesterday, “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal.”

If Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned about the credibility of the international community, maybe he could help counter this bad deal by agreeing to follow any of the dozens of UN resolutions that have passed over the years calling on Israel to start treating the Palestinians as full human beings. But I’m not going to hold my breath on that.

While the administration and its apologists will defend this as a necessary move in order to entice the Iranians to the table, what this does is make it clear to Rouhani’s boss, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that he has nothing to fear from the Americans. After more than a decade of diplomatic deception, the Iranians finally have what they wanted: an American president and secretary of state ready to recognize their “right” to enrich uranium and to hold on to to their nuclear fuel stockpile and to loosen sanctions in exchange for easily evaded promises.

Hey, you know who also recognizes Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium? The rest of the world, as described by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the standard under which the sanctions were imposed in the first place:

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

Iran doesn’t have the “right” to enrich uranium for non-military purposes; they have an absolute right, no scare quotes.

But, heck, why are we reading Benjamin Netanyahu’s propaganda ministry here in the US when we can just see what Bibi himself thinks?

Netanyahu has preemptively dismissed anything coming out of Geneva as a “very bad deal.” As Robert Farley and I discussed yesterday, there are three reasons why Israeli officials would publicly attack negotiations with Iran. The first is that they assume that any deal will be unacceptable to them, and are therefore writing off the negotiating process ahead of time. The second is that they want to keep public pressure on to make the deal as tolerable as possible, and the third is that they don’t need to take a risk in endorsing a deal no matter what it involves.

I agree with this list, except for the bit about Netanyahu “assuming” that any deal will be unacceptable. I don’t see him assuming anything; he’s made it crystal clear that any deal that doesn’t involve heavy ordinance exploding at various spots on Iranian soil will not get his approval. Some of that may be for domestic political consumption, but essentially there’s no deal to be had that Netanyahu won’t criticize. Larison thinks this may be a mistake:

Rejecting the deal out of hand before it has even been finalized gives the U.S. and European governments little reason to listen to Israeli complaints, since the latter are not going to be realistically satisfied, and that will make them much less sympathetic to any Israeli reaction to the deal. Whether he intends to or not, Netanyahu may end up improving the chances that current negotiations will succeed by making the maximalist alternative seem so absurd.

Netanyahu may be particularly vulnerable to losing European support if he really pushes to kill a deal. Jeffrey Goldberg thinks that Netanyahu’s penchant for expanding West Bank settlements may be blowing up in his face in this regard:

The second reason is one Netanyahu, so far at least, has refused to comprehend. His unwillingness to permanently freeze settlement growth on the West Bank, to make the sort of grand gesture toward the Palestinians that would advance the peace process, has caused even those in Washington and Europe who are sympathetic to his stance on Iran to write him off as generally immovable and irrational.

Netanyahu argues that these are two separate issues, and he’s correct. Except that, in the world of international diplomacy, they are inextricably linked. The Obama administration hears Netanyahu’s demands for more action on Iran and tries — so far, fairly successfully — to meet that call for action. But when the Obama administration turns around and asks Netanyahu to make the sort of gestures that might advance the peace process, it more often than not gets stonewalled.

But it’s possible that Netanyahu actually has a plan for scuttling a deal, the fecklessness of the US Congress:

This is where Netanyahu could play a major role, and potentially scuttle any nuclear deal with Iran, should one emerge from Geneva. Sanctions relief will be controversial in Congress, and Republican lawmakers will try to draw as much attention to the issue as possible so as to rally public opposition. What they lack is a public face to put on their campaign. Netanyahu can provide that: He is popular in the United States and has demonstrated a flair for rallying Congress. He’s also not particularly shy about criticizing the diplomatic outreaches with Tehran. If Netanyahu continues arguing against an Iranian deal, and particularly if he does so in a way that’s crafted to resonate in any domestic American debate, he could make the Obama administration’s task in Congress much harder.

I’m not sure who’s done the polling to determine that Netanyahu “is popular in the United States,” particularly if he tries to appeal to the American public to oppose a peace deal. Americans don’t like Iran, but if the Syria debate taught us anything, it’s that we probably hate the idea of yet another military incursion into the Middle East even more. There’s a lot to lose for Netanyahu if he pursues something like this, assuming that the Obama Administration is prepared to actually attach a penalty to Israeli interference. Ultimately there is no deal with Iran that’s going to earn the approval of Commentary magazine or of Bibi Netanyahu, so let’s not bother trying to appease them.

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